Military agents and police killed four suspected members of the international terrorist group Daulah Islamiyah in an operation in Parañaque City yesterday.
The raid happened as the Anti-Terrorism bill still awaits the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte on Friday cautioned fellow Southeast Asian leaders on the growing threat posed by terrorists as the world is facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 36th annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.
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“While the challenges we face due to COVID-19 are considerable, we must never forget that there are also other threats that can further undermine our effort. The pandemic has not killed terrorism. It remains alive, lurking in the shadows,” Duterte said in a meeting with Asean leaders held online for the first time.
“Terrorism continues to pose a threat despite the present global challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Duterte said.
In his speech, Duterte said terrorist groups have struck even during relief operations.
He said such acts do not only happen in the Philippines but in many parts of the region, saying “these acts are unconscionable and we must, therefore, be always on the alert.”
He lamented how communist rebels attacked government troops securing employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), who were distributing cash aid to beneficiaries of the government’s social amelioration program during the pandemic.
He said members of terrorist organizations are sowing terror in some virus-hit nations despite governments’ efforts to help people affected by the health crisis.
The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will replace Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act, giving the government greater leeway in its anti-terror operations. But the bill has also come under heavy fire from human rights groups that say it can be used to stifle legitimate criticism and to harass the political opposition.
Under the measure, suspected terrorists can be detained for up to 24 days without a warrant of arrest.
During yesterday’s raid, the composite team from the military and police was serving a search warrant at the suspects hideout at Block 5, Lot 4, Annex 46, Better Living in Barangay Don Bosco around 12:26 a.m. when the suspects fired upon the authorities.
A firefight ensued and the suspects were shot dead.
The fatalities were identified as Merhama Abdul Sawari, also known as Mheng who served as the Finance and Logistics facilitator; Bensaudi Sali alias Boy; Rasmin A. Hussin, alias Boscon; and Jamal Kalliming alias Pando.
Paranaque City Regional Trial Court Branch 258 Judge Noemi Balitaan issued the search warrant following police intelligence reports about the whereabouts of the suspects.
The authorities recovered several handguns, explosive devices, and records of the group’s financial transactions.
Police said the suspects were tagged as a financial conduit of Daesh-East Asia.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the killing of the four suspects highlighted the need for the new anti-terrorism law.
“This development all the more highlights the need for the President and Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Duterte to expedite the signing and immediate implementation of the anti-terrorism bill,” said AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos, in a press statement.
He also said the operation against the terrorists highlighted the fact that not even a pandemic would stop terrorist groups from carrying out attacks.
On the other hand, the Commission on Human Rights on Friday said the anti-terrorism bill is a step back in the prevention of torture.
Lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said considering the already dire situation in jails, the proposed anti-terror bill could further regress efforts to prevent torture.
“Provisions in the act that allow arrest of individuals without judicial warrant and prolonged period of detention without charges may endanger the rights of the accused to due process and make them vulnerable to cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment. We reiterate our call for the amendment of these provisions that are prone to abuse,” she said in a statement.
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